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When Your Boss Just Won’t Listen


It is very frustrating when you talk to your boss and he or she won’t listen. Your repeated attempts at getting your thoughts across fall on deaf years and you don’t feel respected or valued. If this is a problem you face at work, then you might need to change your approach to communicating.


(Photo Credit: DanDeChiaro/Flickr)

1. Is it just with you?

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How does your boss communicate with the other members of the team? Does she pay attention and listen to their viewpoints? Are you the only one she won’t listen to?

If that’s the case, try assessing yourself first. Are you domineering, condescending, or a bad listener yourself? Maybe it’s time you take on a different communication strategy.

If that’s not the case, take a step back and reassess your interactions from the point in time when you felt your professional relationship began to be strained. If that doesn’t help, consult with your colleagues to see if they’ve noticed the change.

If you can, set up a straightforward discussion with your boss and bring it out in the open. Let her know that you value her counsel and thoughts and want to understand how she’d like to define communication and workflow channels so you can work effectively. 

 2. Is he this way with everyone?

If this is the case and he does not listen to anyone, then the problem is with him.  It could be that he has had to fight his way up the ladder, does not want his authority questioned, is feeling threatened by his team or feels he is the manager, and therefore the one with the best ideas.

If so, talking to him may be more difficult than you think. Approach the discussion with tact. Make it absolutely clear that the decisions being made are his. I know this could be frustrating, but hopefully, after a few months, he will be able to recognize that you are not opposing him and will be able to trust you.

3. Are you respecting her time?

Maybe she’s just impatient and wants you to get to the point quicker, or maybe she just doesn’t have the time and what you’re bringing up is not a priority right now. Maybe the timing is all wrong. Maybe she does not want to be updated about everything on your project and just wants to know if you’re facing any issues.

Even though your agenda is to get your boss to listen, make an attempt to understand her situation, too. Some managers just prefer for you to go ahead and tell them what is it that you want them to help you with and how – just plain and simple. So understand how your boss likes to get her information and make decisions. You can easily solve this problem by observing her communication style and acknowledging the verbal and non-verbal cues in the conversation.

4. Where’s the hook?

If you want your boss’s attention, you should start your conversation with something he really cares about. “I was tallying the budget and spending for this month and noticed that there was a $15,000 deficit” versus “I think we should re-look at the budget and spending for this month.”

You’ve got his attention with the first approach. With the second one, it seems like you are offering him an option of looking at the budget. That’s not what he is concerned about right now. That’s your job, why do you need his help?

5. Are you the problem child?

Often, if you are the person who brings in issues and not the solutions, your boss is going to zone you out. She knows that you’re a time drain and she just can’t deal with you right now. If this is the case, make a conscious effort to prioritize work and be solution-driven. Stay calm and rational in your approach. If you’re able to solve issues for her instead of just bringing them up, she will have a lot more respect for you.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever had to deal with a manager who would just not listen? What did you do? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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